Penn Vet program saves 100 shelter dogs and counting

Sidon, a 5-month-old Cane Corso, arrived at the Pennsylvania SPCA unable to support himself. The lanky, brindle puppy, who had been surrendered by his owner, had extensive swelling in his neck and shoulder that seemed to be worsening. The shelter staff couldn’t pinpoint the problem with the resources they had on-site. But fortunately they knew where they could turn for help.

With a call to the School of Veterinary Medicine, the SPCA enlisted the help of Ryan Hospital’s team of experts, who were able to provide advanced diagnostics, intensive care, and surgery to set Sidon on the path to recovery—and a safe new home with foster parent Allison Vetter, one of the Penn Vet nurses who provided his care.

Sidon recently became the 100th dog whose life was saved by Penn Vet’s Shelter Dog Specialty Medical Treatment Project, an effort supported by the Richard Lichter Charity for Dogs. The program covers the expenses needed to treat the acute medical problems of shelter dogs in order to give them a better chance of being adopted.

Launched last year and originally intended to treat only around 25 dogs a year, the program has caught on “like wildfire,” says Brittany Watson, director of shelter medicine and community engagement at Penn Vet.

“The program provides a safety net for our partnering shelters,” Watson says. “If they’re in a desperate spot, they know they can turn to us.”

Ryan Hospital clinicians have treated shelter dogs with parvovirus, liver shunts, old orthopedic injuries, severe skin issues, and traumatic injuries from being hit by a car. Many of these dogs would have been euthanized if it wasn’t for the specialty program.

“It’s an amazing thing for the clinicians to be able to do exactly what they think is best for an animal without the typical financial constraints that most shelters and owners have,” Watson says.

She has been gratified to see how the shelters and Ryan staff alike have committed to the program.

“The shelters put together a tremendous effort into getting the animals to us and helping them find homes. The hospital puts a tremendous effort into the care,” Watson says. “It really is a nice example of what we can accomplish when everyone comes together.”

Sidon Penn Vet